Ethanolamine March prices steady-to-firm, supply remains good

13 March 2013 23:59  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--European ethanolamine prices are steady-to-firm moving from February to March, but supply remains ample for most grades and demand relatively flat from most derivatives, sources said on Wednesday.

One seller of all three ethanolamine grades - monoethanolanine (MEA), diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA) - said its March prices remain the same as February.

“We’ve seen no changes [in price] to previous weeks. It’s very quiet and we expected after the ethylene settlement that ethanolamine prices would increase,” the seller said. The March ethylene contract settled at a €50/tonne ($65/tonne) increase from the previous month.

For March, the seller quoted MEA at €1,380-1,440/tonne FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe), TEA was quoted at €1,400/tonne, with DEA at €1,080-1,200/tonne.

“There are no availability problems, I see the market more long than short. Even with a producer having problems there has been no impact on the market,” the seller said.

Others in the market felt no major surge in demand but believed any length felt in January and February had evaporated. Sources also agreed the second quarter is typically the strongest time of the year for demand, particularly for esterquats (clothes softener) and anything construction related.

“We announced to our customers an increase of €50-75/tonne,” a major producer said regarding March prices.

The producer added its March MEA price was “on average” €1,540/tonne FD NWE, with DEA €25/tonne above this price. It said its lowest offer for TEA was now €1,200/tonne.

Looking ahead to April, the producer said: “We will be firm on prices. Quarter two is always a strong quarter. MEA and TEA go into places where demand is better. People buy more fabric softener and construction only works when the weather is getting better.”

A third seller of ethanolamine said it expects to see prices increase in April due of various outages taking place and because demand is typically at its strongest in the second quarter.

The selling source said its March prices were similar to that of February, although it saw TEA above €1,200/tonne. It added the increase in the fee of feedstock ethylene oxide (EO) had helped its business.

“What helps us most is the EO situation. The increase in the contract fees has applied more pressure,” the producer said.

The March EO contract price assessed by ICIS increased by €41/tonne, bringing the high end of the assessed ranges for northwest Europe and the Mediterranean to a record high level.

March contract prices were assessed at €1,429-1,596/tonne FD NWE and €1,484-1,641/tonne FD Med (Mediterranean).

In terms of production outages in the months ahead, major German producer BASF will shut down its 500,000 tonne/year feedstock EO plant in Antwerp, Belgium, for the first three weeks of May for planned maintenance. This will mean the halting of its ethanolamine operations, but BASF was unable to give exact dates.

Switzerland-headquartered INEOS Oxide also has EO outages planned. The first is scheduled for late April at its 420,000 tonne/year plant in Antwerp. The second is due to start in June at its 220,000 tonne/year plant in Lavera, France. 

Ethanolamines can be used for applications such as agrochemical production, surfactants, personal care and construction. MEA is produced by reacting EO with ammonia. The chemical reaction also produces DEA and TEA.

($1= €0.77)

By: Julia Meehan
+44 20 8652 3214

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